b (2)

By Ndagi Abdullahi

In 1915 I was one of the three most famous ‘menders’ at the Kpebegi Market, Bida. I was the Kimwo or tailor, Yandalu was the Kimvo or calabash mender, and Yisati was the Kimpa or leather mender. The three of us sat in the same shade and were very popular with the people.
What the people didn’t know was that in the night we don our masks and operate the most notorious armed robbery gang ever in Bida.
In the dead of the night we harass, steal and even beat – but we never killed. 
And then we kept on promising ourselves after each operation that we will never go into armed robbery again. But the lure of easy money kept on chasing us back to this dirty game of armed robbery.
Until one day we were able to vow among the three of us inside a mosque at Bangbara that we will never go into armed robbery again.
That very day in the night, however, the police came and arrested the three of us to the charge office. Our cover had been busted by a stolen item that the police had traced back to us.
That was how we ended up before LikaliNdagana, the most notorious judge at the Native Authority Court in the Bida of those days.
Without properly listening to our case the ruthless judge accepted the accusation of all the witnesses arrayed against us in the middle of the night. 
Many of the witnesses didn’t even see our faces. But they all claimed that they identified us as the armed robbers who killed and murdered their friends and relatives in various operations within and outside Bida metropolis.
Justice Ndagana sentenced each of us to death.
That was how, that very night, we ended up as death-row inmates at the Dokodza Prison, Bida.
It was the Native Authority judiciary days at the height of the Colonial Government when there was nothing like appeal or even fair hearing.
Imagine our very unfortunate story; it was the day we repented that we were apprehended, wrongly accused and then sentenced to death!
What a wicked world!
We spent close to a week crying and lamenting our fate before we even realized that there was a fourth prisoner together with us inside our tiny, dark prison room.
But we forgot all our woes and went into further shock when we discovered that the fourth person in the jail room with us was NagyaDzuru – the most notorious armed robber Bida has ever seen in history.
NagyaDzuru is an old armed robber condemned to death by the reigning EtsuNupeMuhammaduMakun himself. So nefarious and notorious were the robbery records of NagyaDzuru that his name had become a household one associated with terror and violence. 
NagyaDzuru is the last person any prisoner will ever want to share a prison room with.
NagyaDzuru has been imprisoned at Dokodza for almost a year now and, and by the sheer power of his personality and intelligence, has transformed the Dokodza prison into his kingdom. Everybody, prisoners and guards alike, bow down to old man NagyaDzuruDokodza.
But NagyaDzuru was gentle with us and he calmed us down as he told us that he had patiently listened to our lamentations throughout the week and that he is convinced we had been wrongly sentenced to death.
Old NagyaDzuru spent another week carefully interviewing us and asking us serious questions until he was completely convinced we were not lying to him.
Then he shocked us by saying that he can get us out of prison alive and even the death sentences against us reversed by EtsuMuhammaduMakun himself.
His condition to us, however, is that we must assist him in executing one last robbery in his life – his greatest armed robbery heist ever!
NagyaDzuru said he had perfected plans to rob the Bait ul Mal exchequer of the Bida Native Authority which contain enough money in its vaults to last all of us our lifetimes. But he needed committed and experienced accomplices in the three of us.
We had no option than to agree to his condition.
But we were not convinced it is possible to rob the Bait ul Mal which is the most guarded and most protect bank vault in the whole of Bida.
We also asked him to prove to us that he can get the death sentences against us dropped. He asked us to give him a week work that out.
NagyaDzuru sent the head warder of Dokodza Prison to the LikaliNdagana – the notorious judge who sentenced us to death. Less than a week later the almighty LikaliNdagana himself sneaked into the prison in the night to see the three of us!
A subdued Likali told us he is reviewing our case and might reverse the sentence but that we should go and see our cellmate NagyaDzuru first.
We came back to our cells worshipping NagyaDzuru.
Old NagyaDzuru said all he did was to remind LikaliNdagana that he knew Magana the Rebel, whom the British authorities are looking for and blaming for the death of many people during the 1906 Bida Riot against the British, to be LikaliNdagana’s son.
Having worked for years with the British at Lokoja, old Nagya reminded LikaliNdagana that he knew how to inform the British on him.
He said he had then asked for our lives in exchange for Magana’s life. Simple!
LikaliNdagana had told him that the only way out for us is a royal pardon by EtsuMuhammaduMakun.  
NagyaNdadzuru said he had asked LikaliNdagana to go and convinced the EtsuNupeMuhammaduMakun to pardon us.
Meanwhile, NagyaDzuru’s condition subsist, we must assist him in the Bait ul Mal heist which he didn’t inform LikaliNdagana about. 
A day in February 1916 LikaliNdagana came to inform us that he had been able to hold a private counsel with EtsuMuhammaduMakun who have agreed to grant us a royal pardon pending when he, the EtsuNupe, recovers from a serious illness he was going through.
We had mixed feelings: happy that the EtsuNupe have agreed to pardon us, sad that we don’t know when the EtsuNupe will recover from his illness.
That was when LikaliNdagana told NagyaDzuru that another way out for us is a little known lacuna in the ancient Nupe law that says that crimes committed in the interregnum between the death and appointment of a new EtsuNupe are not punishable by law. We may have no option than to patiently wait until the ailing EtsuMuhammaduMakun dies so that we escape from prison before a new EtsuNupe is turbaned. 
That was when NagyaDzuru gave LikaliNdagana a Mazhigi cream which he asked him to go back and rub on the foot of the EtsuNupeMauhammaduMakun, saying that the EtsuNupe will get healed of his illness immediately and be able to grant us his royal pardon immediately.
The embattled LikaliNdagana was left with no option than to embark on the clandestine mission.
Two days after LikaliNdagana came to inform us that he had been able to successfully rub the cream on the foot of the EtsuNupe, NagyaDzuru asked a chief warder of the Dokodza Prison to take us out to work at the palatial Essozhi farms just outside the Banwuya City Gates of Bida.
It was at that Essozhi farm that we learnt of the sudden death of the EtsuNupeMuhammaduMakun that Friday evening of the 26th of February…
That was also when we realized that NagyaDzuru had actually been prepared for the occasion. He knew the king was going to die that day.
In fact NagyaDzuru told us that the cream he gave LikaliNdagana to rub on the EtsuNupe’s feet was a poison that he knew will kill the EtsuNupe within hours thereby giving us the opportunity for the interregnum to escape from prison unscathed by the law!
In the ensuing confusion as the entire city got jolted by the news of the death of EtsuNupeMuhammaduMakun that very night NagyaDzuru rushed us to the vicinity of the Bait ul Mal where he gave us deadly weapons he had hidden earlier for the operation.
We easily overpowered the guards of the Bait ul Mal who were still dazed from the news of the EtsuNupe’s death. Within minutes NagyaDzuru emptied the treasury of the Bait ul Mal into sacks he loaded on monkeys he had specially prepared for this operation and we had disappeared back into the night.
NagyaDzuru took us to a tiny house hidden away in the suburbs where we slept off out of tiredness and extreme happiness…
… only for us to wake up the next morning with no trace of NagyaDzuru or the large amount of money at all!
He left a note in which he explained that we should go to LikaliNdagana and be collecting our feeding upkeep for the next one year as we cannot be re-arrested or retried ever again because we escaped prison on the day of the death of the EtsuNupe before the turbaning of a new EtsuNupe. We are therefore under the protection of the curious ancient Nupe laws of interregnum for the rest of our lives.
He said we should tell LikaliNdagana that if he doesn’t comply he, NagyaDzuru, will still go ahead to report him to the British authorities at the Lugard Hall, Kaduna.
We went to LikaliNdagana with the letter. 
That was when we received the shock of our lives. LikaliNdagana said he didn’t rub the cream on EtsuMuhammaduMakun’s feet because he suspected as much that it was a poison prepared by the notorious NagyaDzuru to expedite the EtsuNupe’s death!
LikaliNdagan said EtsuNupeMuhammaduMakun died a natural death that very night Friday 26th of February 1916.
But he said we are still a free people because we escaped from prison after the death of the EtsuNupe before the turbaning of the new EtsuNupe.
And he LikaliNdagana had no choice than to do whatever we want or ask because he can’t risk NagyaDzuru reporting him to the British authorities at Kaduna.
That night the three of us went back to the mosque at Bangbara and renewed our solemn vows to Allah that we will never ever go back to armed robbery again.
We went back to being our former popular Kimwo, Kimvo and Kimpa menders at the Kpebegi Market, Bida, as the story spread all over the town that we have been discharged and acquitted after LikaliNdagana discovered that he had wrongly sentenced us in the first place.
Nobody, except us and LikaliNdagana himself, knew the inside story that involved the role of NdagyaDzuruDokodza…